LLadies and gentlemen, as you read this, be aware that we have reached ‘Peak Holden’. I guarantee there will never be more genuine Aussie Holdens on our roads than there are now. The last Australian-made Holden rolls off the production line today.
First published on the last day of local Holden production, October 20, 2017.
This is a bloody tragedy that has befallen our country’s manufacturing sector. People may fire up on social media or set fire to some foam, thinking they know the secret of how it all happened, but it was really death by a thousand cuts.
Politically, the right is keen to blame the union-heavy left. But does the union have anything to answer for? They fought for better conditions for factory workers, trying to win a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work from multinational companies that were notorious for their insatiable desire for greater efficiency and cost-cutting. . At the turn of the millennium, I had a brief stint as a Holden worker and don’t seem to remember sniffing plasma screen TVs and waving pineapples at Henson Road prostitutes during my hours. I’ll admit it was pretty good coin for a young lad, but it was a hard day’s work, 10 hours a day, six days a week.
Yet if our factories only paid the legal minimum wage in 2017, $18.29 an hour is more than the six rupees an hour workers in Thailand receive. This is Thailand, with which the Howard government signed a free trade agreement in 2005, allowing 1.8 million imported vehicles to wash up on our shores over the next 11 years. In contrast, we sent 100 Ford Territories back to Thailand, where their industry was protected by hidden barriers and their registration scheme favored smaller capacity engines. How was this a level playing field? How was this a good deal for our country? for shame.
Eight years after the Thai Free Trade Agreement decimated our industry with cheap, tariff-free imports, the Abbott Government forced Australia’s car manufacturers to pull the plug on cuts to subsidies. And they did – pretty much the next day – Holden announced its 2017 closure on 11 December 2013.
Great job, Tony. Australia subsidizing its auto industry was no different than any other car manufacturing country. They protect what is important to them, whether through handouts or tariffs or both. There was nothing brave about trying to isolate Australia’s car industry. It was not a proud moment in our political history. The mining industry and farmers have all received a top-up when times were bad, because the government reaps the rewards when times are good. Then Abbott turns around and says: “This is not the time to play politics. This is not the time to engage in the blame game. Yes, it is; We had it and you ruined it, Tony.
But maybe that was just an excuse that GM was looking for. A strong dollar under Labor had squeezed our export credentials. We are not a developing nation after all, and don’t buy six bucks an hour a pie in a factory canteen to keep the house afloat.
Then there is the problem of market fragmentation. It has been pointed out that Holden, Ford and perhaps even Toyota failed to keep up with consumer trends. Consumers stopped buying Aussie cars en masse – consumers to note include large fleet buyers such as Telstra and Self-Government. Remember when the VT Commodore wagon came out and every second was a Telstra car? Telstra’s buying power was so strong that it influenced the design of the VT, with the telco promising massive fleet contracts if Holden surpassed the Falcon in wagon size. But Telstra moved on, turning to admittedly more practical one-box vans, while the Holden wagon re-evolved, losing boot space to the VE/VF and sacrificing load area for style. A decade after the VT, good used ex-fleet cars dried up and Australian buyers stopped dreaming of one day upgrading to a new car out of eighty.
As fleet cars disappeared, a small but established player gained traction: the dual-cab ute. If you were a tradie 30 years ago, you probably worked for one. And the pay wasn’t that high, so you’d carefully drive your 10-year-old HJ Premier to the depot every morning, hop into the work-provided vehicle and head off for the day. These days, the boys and girls in the business are getting a better day’s pay than ever before. But in this era of subcontracting and self-sufficiency, companies provide SFA. It makes more sense for subcontractors to lease a dual-cab, dual-purpose ute that covers both work and play, after which they can tax the live dirt. It costs nothing to have an Australian ute for work and a four-door family car for the weekend.
“But I’m the guy who wants an Australian ute for work and a V8 Commodore for the weekend! And maybe a V6 Berlina for the wife,” I hear you say. Yeah, me too, but there aren’t enough of us.
We can also contact you on the status issue here. In the 70s and 80s, having a Premier, SL/E or Calais in the driveway meant you (or your dad) were doing pretty well. And if it was a statesman or a caprice standing there, look out! You were either very cheerful or recently retired.
They built over 300,000 VT Commodores, and there’s an old saying: familiarity breeds contempt. With those kinds of numbers, it’s a statistical inevitability that more than a few of these cars, which were worth $30-50K when new 20 years ago, are going to turn into worn-out, inoperable junk. These are the cars with matching bumpers and $1000 stereo systems installed before suspension rebuilds, brake work and tires are replaced. Spinning on three gumtree compounds and a back-right stocky, they run the gauntlet in search of backstreet single-pegger action before the inevitable canary condemns them to a bleak future at pick-a-part.
These things don’t happen with Mercedes-Benz and BMWs. Pound for pound they were more expensive to buy at first, they were bought by a different demographic, but more importantly, for 20 years they were either run at no cost or still disastrous. handed over to the people, which is still ancient. And intact, but with one small problem that was too expensive to be worth repairing.
So now, a generation later, putting a brand new Calais in the driveway isn’t so necessary. Perception has changed. Owning a ‘Calais’ could mean you own a brand new, state-of-the-art, LS3-powered sledgehammer or a $900 Ecotec with 350,000km missing the shutbox and fuel flap. BMW owners have no such worries. Even if they’re really driving a nine-year-old 120i with prematurely smoky valve stem seals, it’s still a BMW.
This brings us to the former V8 Supercars racing series. Anyone who watches Supercars knows that these things are packed with advanced technology, but built on a compromised formula. And it’s not without irony that even though the Car of the Future equalization project eliminated most of the parts that make the cars Ford or Holden, there are still some people at the trackside shouting: ‘Buyaholdenyagunts!’ On someone wearing a blue shirt
This creates the false impression that these race cars are dinosaurs, filtering out the street cars they merely resemble. Detractors of the Supercars series decry the lack of cams and turbos as archaic, and they’ll never wish for a shiny new V8 Holden in the driveway. We are now a long way from ‘win on Sunday, sell on Monday’.
There are many other reasons for the uneasiness in Holden’s sales. What about the size of the modern child safety restraint system that apparently requires an urban Hummer to drive to school? Or the unceremonious banning of ads featuring whirlwind circle work and a boy’s guts to enjoy driving, all because of Wauser complaints? And I don’t have the energy to wade into the storm that followed GM’s bankruptcy in the wake of the 2007 GFC. Suffice it to say, we’re probably lucky we kept Holden for as long as we did.
All of these things combined to kill the Aussie car, but perhaps the bottom line is that the Aussie outsold the Falcon and the Commodore. The diversity of choice demanded by consumers has reduced the number of Australians who still want a large sedan. The young are more concerned with Samsung vs Apple than Holden vs Ford, while the old need something more Prado-ish to pull the caravan.
A Falcon or Commodore is no longer what the majority want, and while the rest (that’s us) are enthusiastic and vocal, we don’t pay enough Ford and Holden bills to stick around. Guarantee should be given.
When did we become so complacent as a nation? If this had happened in the 70s or 80s, there would have been riots in the streets. There may also be some blood. Instead, we have only a few news stories and visions of a few lonely cars rolling off the production line, proud but sad workers looking wistfully at an uncertain future outside Elizabeth’s vast manufacturing facility.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I was nine years old when Holden and Toyota announced the 1987 UAAI model sharing venture. I read about it. The wheels magazine, and I cried. I remember my mother comforting me, probably thinking: “Why can’t my baby cry about normal nonsense like wanting to stack a skateboard or eat chips for breakfast?”
But not knowing the whys and wherefores of boardroom affairs and factory sales, I looked back at Mitsubishi’s takeover of Chrysler Australia and realized that Holden would probably suffer the same fate as Toyota’s worldwide operations. The combine has absorbed. History has shown that my fears were unfounded and once both manufacturers realized that Lexens and Navas were a stupid idea, the dark ages were over.
Holden has experienced some halcyon days since then, and for a while in the 2000s, they were untouchable, building dozens of models and producing stunning concept cars with terrifying regularity.
But here we are in reality, my childhood fears finally coming to fruition. And when I pulled my November 2017. The wheels Pulling the magazine out of the letterbox and seeing the stunning subscriber-edition cover, I cried again for the American-owned but quintessentially Australian brand of car I’ve loved all my life. The simple image of an FX Holden barreling down a sunset-soaked dirt road, with the words ‘End of the Line’ beneath it, beautifully illustrates the close of our proud automotive history. Is.
As the ultimate Australian-made Holden – a red Holden VFII Commodore SS-V Redline – was primed, presented and photographed, men and women looked forward to an easy life in museums and exhibitions. Those who made it should be pinned to the chest. -To develop a sense of pride in their product and the comfort of knowing that their production did not contribute in any way to the end game.
There was no single mechanism that brought this about; It was just a series of events that created the perfect storm that resulted in the ridiculous situation we are facing as a nation today, Friday October 20, 2017.
With Peak Holden at the moment, every time you read this, remember that we will never see anything like this again in our country. If you own an Australian-built Holden, value it and take good care of it, because it will be a great car. And, in time, irreversible.
Well Australia’s proud motoring industry. A belated farewell to Ford and Toyota. Rest easy, Holden – Australia’s own car.